Last week, I went to the PV Operations conference in Munich, organised by NewEnergyUpdate. Besides pleasant talks with attendees during the networking breaks, I had the opportunity to speak about the importance of irradiance and soiling measurements for utility solar plants.
I found the conference highly interesting, due to the openness of many speakers to share their own insights, ranging from practical problems and solutions to strategic directions for the solar market.
Here are my takeaways:
Copy existing industrial standards to professionalise the market
Some speakers coming from industrial sectors (like the chemical industry) and entering the solar industry, are surprised by the lack of common industrial standards and processes in the utility solar power market. They advocated public benchmarking (based on open data), shared risks for critical solar power plant components (like inverters, panels and transformers), and better statistics for components (like Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) and Mean Time To Repair (MTTR)) and related warranties. It is clear that in the next years the process of professionalisation will continue at high speed.
Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data are coming up, but need to prove themselves
Much data is collected about solar plants at the moment, but without a clear idea when and where to use it. Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data look promising; however, the data quality is often questioned as well.
Soiling is a relevant issue
Many speakers mentioned soiling as an important issue with high impact on yield and revenues but, until recently, underestimated. The part on the DustIQ in my presentation attracted many relevant questions and led to interesting talks during the coffee breaks.
Debate on the role of Performance Ratio
There are clear advocates of Performance Ratio (PR) as a utility solar park contract item (it is still in most new contracts), but also some investors are doubting the relevance of PR for contracting parties and focussing on yield and availability. The Kipp & Zonen whitepaper on Performance Ratio shows the relevance of PR in all utility solar park stages of development and operations; PR denotes the performance of a solar plant, given the actual circumstances over a period (usually a year).
Solar is the market to be in!
The last words of Guy Auger (CEO Greensolver) to close the conference were something like: Solar is definitively the market to be in, great market outlooks and lots of things to be done.
My presentation at the conference covered the 3E and Kipp & Zonen whitepaper about satellite and on-site pyranometer irradiance measurements. If you were not able to attend the conference, you can download the whitepaper here.